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A Sad Passing

June 26, 2002

I wasn't a fan of Darryl Kile's. In fact, I never thought much about him, to be perfectly honest. Good pitcher, great curve ball, had some solid seasons. That's about it. In a column a couple years ago, I commented on how I thought he threw like a girl. I'm sorry for that now. I wish I could take it back.

When a professional athlete dies in the prime of his life, it hits hard. We feel it. Perhaps we think, if a man like that can be taken so suddenly, what about me? I'm just a regular guy.

When Hank Gathers passed away in 1990, I remember sitting in a dialysis chair, feeling sorry for myself, thinking about poor little me, when I should have been praying for the people who knew and loved Mr. Gathers. And like with Darryl Kile, there were many who felt it big-time. I'm sorry about that now. I wish I could take it back.

We cry for Kile's wife and children, like Mike Hampton said, "The biggest thing I think about is the 10-month old, Ryker. He never had a chance to know his daddy."

My father died young too, at 37, also from a heart attack. Preventable perhaps, had it not been October, 1964. The Dodgers had just finished in the second division, after all, so at least it made some sense.

I feel like I know a little bit about what the Kile kids may be going through, how their lives might be altered. What I would say to them if I had the chance is simply that you cannot replace your father, but there will be others to love you,

I don't really remember my father, not really, but at least I had five years. Almost six.

The memories are hazy, mostly about baseball. Completely about baseball. Playing catch in the yard, listening to Vinny, even during supper. Daddy had the sound piped into the kitchen from the Hi-Fi in the bedroom, so we didn't miss a pitch.

My brother and I take turns holding onto my father's old scrapbooks, filled with game stories, standings and box scores from the New York papers, and then Los Angeles. I had them for a bunch of years, now he has them.

I would have loved to have had a chance to ask my father about 1955, but I can only imagine. I would have liked to have asked him about 1951 too, but can only imagine. After Jack Clark and 1985, I told myself he would have understood. We're even now, I thought.

I would have loved to have shared with him about Fernando and Gibby, and Don Drysdale and Orel Hershiser, and about Shawn Green and Paul Lo Duca, about Henry Aaron and Nolan Ryan, and Kirby Puckett and Cal Ripken, and about the '69 Mets. And about my Little League accomplishments. Just the good things.

On my bookshelf today sits a vintage G.E. radio that weighs a ton, and takes half a dozen of those big old "D" batteries. It's still set at 640, for KFI.

Next to the G.E. is an original Dodger bobble-head doll, with the number 32 on it, looking absolutely nothing like Sandy Koufax, but still my most prized possession. I believe my father gave it to me, but I don't really remember. Lost half its head in the Northridge earthquake, when it fell from a shelf, rolled into a closet, and was buried by several thousand Topps cards.

I'm truly sorry about Darryl Kile. I really am. It's a sad passing, a very sad passing.

To the children of number 57, please live your lives. Look back but move forward. There will always be people there to love you..


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